Friday, October 6, 2017

Ellason, Traditional Cuban Music

I've spent a good deal of my life listening to Afro-Cuban and neighboring musics. I cannot pretend to be an expert but I am profoundly influenced by it all. With a diplomatic semi-normalization of US-Cuban relations we can now hear a great deal more of what has been happening on the island. Ansonica Records is an ambitious undertaking of  Parma Recordings, aiming to bring US-Cuban musical collaborative projects to our ears as well as documenting what is happening in Cuba today.

In the latter category is the notefull passion of Traditional Cuban Music (Ansonica AR0003) as played and sung by Ellason, an excellent all-female outfit. The aim is to revive the music of Compay Segundo and Sigundo Garay and get general inspiration from the genre known as La Trova.

It is essentially in the style of 1940's Havana jazz bands, featuring especially the Charanga form with a driving heat and lyrical crispness. Lead singers and chorus are spectacularly good, and the band of bass, guitar, congas, bongos, cowbell, two clarinets and violin get a wonderful sound and heat everything up so that you surely want to dance.

I dearly love this band and their music. Anyone who digs the old sounds will revel in it all. Havana comes alive and we are there. Wonderful stuff!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter, Luke Damrosch, Limit


This past September 8th I was happy to review a recent Alan Sondheim album with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch. We have yet another, entitled Limit (Public Eyesore 138). Sondheim, you will recall, had a couple of multi-instrumental iconoclastic free improv albums out on ESP back in the day. He is going strong again, as this album attests.

Luke Damrosch plays madal and is responsible for engineering and programming, Azure Carter gives us her quirky songs and sings them with disarming straightforward candor, and Alan handles the music concepts and plays a battery of instruments as we have come to expect, in this case viola, guqin, flute, clarinet, alto clarinet, long necked saz, dan moi, ghichak, ukelele, guzheng, holeless shakuhachi, hegelung, sanshin and rebab.

The blend is spaced out at times by studio enhancements. All is plainly what it is, regardless. And what it is gives the listener plenty of pause (plus playback and fast forward)! There is at all times a provocative kind of freedom that, as is Alan Sondheim's way, never stays put in a single free idiom, instead covering free jazz and world roots in ways he has come to make his fingerprint sound.

Azure adds much with the special songs that form a vivid, whimsical contrast to the freedom swirling about her.

Limit pleases greatly if you give the music a chance to grow within you. It is not like anything else exactly. It is Alan Sondheim.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Biggi Vinkeloe Band, Aura Via Appia

Melody, song and freely stepping forward are central to the beautiful album by the Biggi Vinkeloe Band, Aura Via Appia (Omlott MLR 015 2017). It centers on the presence of the band in Rome, on the singular feeling that evokes, a songfulness, a singular directionality brought on in part by being there, or so I would suggest.

The band itself has presence. It centers around of course Biggi on flute and alto, Robert Bellatalla on double bass and Peeter Uuskyla on drums. Joining them is Nema Vinkeloe on well done vocals and violin for the two Swedish folk songs and Pharoah Sander's wonderfully familiar "Japan." Simon Uuskyla nicely brings his voice to the two versions of Mozart's "Un Aura Amoroso" and his "Speculum Dianae".

This is music that sings, and to me that is always a big part of Biggi as an artist. Her alto and flute are ever singing, as they very much are here. The entire album however does embrace a singing of a singing, in the Mozart, in the folk songs. There always is a kind of discursive logic to Biggi's soloing, a speech-song quality. And we get lots of nicely hewn Biggi here, as good as anything and that is very good indeed. The band has open forward free movement that sets Ms. Vinkeloe into a space where she can shine brightly. So she does. And the song moment only bring that to us as a reinforcement, an affirmation.

Aura Via Appia has a gentle, open joy about it. We sing along in our hearts, because the music cannot and should not be denied. You listen the more, the better it gets. Kudos to Biggi and the band. Listen to this!

Monday, September 25, 2017

LAMA + Joachim Badenhorst, Metamorphosis

The world of Portuguese new music-avant jazz is a most fertile one. I have been happy to cover it increasingly over the years. It surely forms one of the more vibrant and varied, innovative and original scenes out there today. An especially rewarding outfit is that of LAMA, which if you type their name into the search box above you will see I have been reviewing on a regular basis for some time. The latest, Metamorphosis (Clean Feed 433) brings into the fold once again clarinetist-bass clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst for a rather riveting set.  LAMA itself consists of Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, Goncalo Almeida on double bass, keys, effects and loops, and Greg Smith on drums and electronics.

The music combines compositionally directed and free improv sounds in very logical and earthy ways. Of the five segments as recorded at Jazzcase last January, three are by Almeida, and one each are by Badenhorst and Smith. Ms. Silva has ubiquity and strength on trumpet; Badenhorst counters with his own clarinet-family gumbo. The rhythm-electronics team of Almeida and Smith bring a huge presence to the music conceptually and personality-wise. They are a big reason why everything hangs together while it expands outwards continually.

I cannot do proper justice to the music using the words at hand to me this Monday morning. That would take a great deal more effort, because this is not easily categorized. It is new, involved, evolved and free yet carefully thought-out. What is important is in the hearing, after all.

And so I do heartily recommend you hear this one repeatedly. It is much a thing to absorb you and give some meaning to what is the modern now. Take it on seriously and you will be the richer for it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dennis Gonzalez's Ataraxia, Ts'iibil Chaaltun

Trumpetist-bandleader-jazz composer Dennis Gonzalez has never been a follower so much as a prime, parallel force in the Zeitgeist of present-avant jazz. He continues to strike an independent yet forward striving path with the trio Ataraxia and their 2-LP offering Ts'ibil Chaaltun (Daagnim DVDI).

The vinyl presentation is state-of-the-art, a beautiful object in itself. The music is singular, with classical Indian-cum-fusion-Milesian-cum-free-jazz  furtherences saving our musical day. The trio says much with only three voices, Dennis of course, Jagath Lapriya on tablas and Drew Phillips on contrabass. The music wisely conflates multiple stylistic worlds with an organic wholeness that seems effortless but of course is a product of careful interlistening and instrumental insights.

There are the tablas nicely laying down the rhythmic core, occasional tambura drone, thoughtful contrabass anchorage and variations, and some haunting Gonzalez trumpet.

It turns out to be a marvelously varied platform that never seems the least bit contrived. It explores a spectrum of possibilities in ways that ring the truest and make a major art music statement.

It may not be exactly what you would expect from Dennis Gonzalez. And that is partly the point. He never rests and in the travelling comes a mastery of possibilities for which this trio has fully prepared.

A milestone, this is! And fully worthy to traverse universes, to take your ears to places somehow familiar yet boldly personal. Wow!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Joris Teepe & Don Braden, Conversations, with Gene Jackson & Matt Wilson

What can still be can satisfy when it is put together just right. Conversations (Creative Perspective Music 3004) by bassist Joris Teepe and tenor-flautist Don Braden is one of those kind of sessions. It is a tenor-bass-drum lineup that accentuates forward momentum swinging in a loosely cohesive, very inter-conversational way. The emphasis is not so much on breaking new ground as it is on finding new ways to walk down a fairly well-trodden path.

The trio here dwells comfortably and brilliantly on the edge of late hard-bop freedom. There is very hip propulsion, basso profundo musicianship from Teepe that can dwell inside and outside of the assumptions of a jazz classic, standard or original, and a Braden tenor fluidity that recalls early Sam Rivers, mid-Wayne Shorter, even Sonny Rollins is an advanced mode, that sort of thing, only Braden-fresh.

Bass and sax have a frontline presence together often enough. But Teepe also keeps the rhythm-team movement happening with Gene Jackson or Matt Wilson, both of whom distinguish themselves in turn. The fact that they do a nice version of Elvin Jones' classic "Three Card Molly" is great, but it also puts you in mind of that early trio with Farrell and Garrison, not to mention the classic Rollin's threesome before that. And it is not the notes themselves but that evolved cross-talk that is present here.

The choice of material and their attention to getting inside it makes for a strong outing. The Corea "Humpty Dumpty," Mingus' "Pork Pie Hat," Shorter's "Footprints" and the standards like "This is New," plus a couple of nice originals by Teepe, Wilson and Braden, all of that keeps the ears fresh and comfortable with the new-old, structure-form oscillations.

It is in every way top tier modern jazz! Everybody shows strength and creative open-field vision.

Yes!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Anemone, A Wing Dissolved in Light, Peter Evans, John Butcher, Paul Lovens, etc.

If you revel in the extroverted and brash yet smart sort of free jazz outings, I believe the recent album A Wing Dissolved in Light (No Business NBLP 105) will appeal very much to you. The group calls itself Anemone. Those that follow the avant garde jazz scene will surely know the work of trumpetismos Peter Evans, who on this set concentrates most productively on the piccolo trumpet. Then there is tenor and soprano master John Butcher, who has made a dramatic impact on the scene for a while now. Drummer Paul Lovens has iconic status, deservedly. Joining them are two somewhat lesser-known but essential artists, Frederic Blondy on piano and Clayton Thomas on double bass, both of whom make important contributions to the whole.

Gone are the head-solos-head one-by-one improvisational routines to be replaced by the group explorations "orchestrated" by the collective intuitions, restraint versus assertion dialectics that Anemone unveil so well. If this often enough is what new free jazz favors, it nevertheless poses a great challenge to the participants, since every minute must entail careful listening and a demand to make every note count.

Anemone shows us, not surprisingly, that they are masters of the instant form collective. There is no moment when the music seems unpurposive. On the contrary it all hangs together remarkably well.

If you want to know how evolved freedom jazz can be right now, this is as good an example as any.

So pay this one close attention if you can. It rewards with some sublime spontaneity.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio, with Mark Helias, Dan Weiss

This music is no joke. It is the meeting of Quinsin Nachoff on tenor sax, Mark Helias on double bass and Dan Weiss on drums. The results are simply self-titled Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind Recordings 4706). It is a master statement of what contemporary jazz could be and is from some of the best practitioners out there. Best practices. Inspired praxises.

I knew and appreciated Quinsin from his previous album Flux (type that in the search box above for the review). The Ethereal Trio takes things further. Helias and Weiss are a kind of dream rhythm team for Quinsin. The three together create a magic trio outing that stands on the improvisational edge of contemporary practice without quite jumping into the abyss. And so there is a creative tension between time-place marking and open-ends insistence that puts this music in a kind of essential relation to the present-day listener and the vertical possibilities available to the committed and brilliant improvisers that make up the trio.

Nachoff takes the prevailing open tenor possibilities and makes of it something personal and very fluid. Helias is in this context a co-lining voice of great lucidity and a rhythm foundation of pillared strength, playing against Nachoff and Weiss equally and very productively. Weiss is a drummer of terrific inventiveness and as much swing as you can ask for--when it is called for.

Put that together with six originals and you have something that stands out as a must-hear!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Marcelo Dos Reis, Eve Risser, Timeless

Guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis has been involved in some wonderful improv sessions in recent years. For that matter so has pianist Eve Risser. A duo of the two turns out, understandably, to be an inspired idea. We can hear the results of their intersective get together at the October 2016 "Jazz ao Centro Festival" in Coimbra, Portugal on the recent CD Timeless (JACC Records 34).

The idea of conjoining both prepared and unprepared piano and acoustic guitar alike is given very creative focus in the seven free improvisational segments that make up the program. Marcelo and Eve attend closely to the very expanded sonarities possible in such a setup. They allow their creatively inventive selves full latitude to get the maximum  of ethereal traction out of the possibilities inherent in what end up being four instrumental options. Of course the many sound possibilities of the two prepared instruments are what you notice first coming out of your speakers. Then with continuing listening the entire spectrum of sounds and the gestural interactions become ever more clear and compelling.

The music is as much about the timbrally exotic flourishes as it is about pitch. The two aspects combine in ways only avant improvisational savantes like Eve and Marcelo could pull off. Nothing sounds random or accidental. And none of it is because these two know well what they are about. They know which parts of their articulation arsenal will correspond with what the other is doing at any given moment.

So each moment of the totality has significance and aesthetic expressivity. It allows the duo to open us up continually to fascinating and rewarding open universes of sounds.

Timeless puts time on hold, as the title suggests. You listen outside of the clock watching being we tend to be when everyday life is in its more mundane phase. The musical events of Timeless sacralize the sound-art space we dwell in and leave us with boundless soundscapes of focused beauty and character. And it does so with disarming selfless individuality, with a dual creation of real value.

Get this one and prepare for parts unknown! Timeless captures timbral wonders as it takes you away from anything ordinary. Molto bravo!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meaghan Burke, Creature Comforts

Sometimes nothing can quite prepare you for a music when it defies easy categorization. Tha is most certainly the case with songwriter, singer, cellist, lyricist Meaghan Burke. Her album Creature Comforts (self released) comes toward you as a kind of underground art song program, quirky and unexpected.

All that is Ms. Burke and all that are her songs are joined variously by a string quartet (that includes her cello), clarinets, resonator guitar, Sousaphone, drums, contrabass, guitar and backing vocals.

Her voices is very musical but also dramatic and I suppose you could say "wayward" in a sort of Downtown way. In the process there is a productive conflation of rock, cabaret, new music, freedom, and I suppose a tiny smidgen of pop. The HOW of the creative stew is the everything, of course.

And that how is poignantly singular, about a personal everyday or otherwise life, about a nicely wrought cello, a touchingly honest sound assemblage that fascinates and moves in its unpretentious yet arty totality.

There is no satisfactory set of words glibly and hastily scrawled (or of course typed). It is Meaghan asserting through her songs, "I exist!" And in the process we too exist alongside her, for the length of the program and beyond.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Alan Sondheim, Azure Carter, Luke Damrosch, Threnody, Shorter Discourses of the Buddha

It is always heartening to hear an artist who long ago made a heroic gesture in the earlier new music free jazz world still active and moving forward in an ever-expanding personal expression. I speak of Alan Sondheim, who in the earlier and perhaps more heady days of new free music making put out several albums on ESP that might qualify as some of the most daring music you've never heard. Not daring in a drop-your-drawers astonishment sort of way. More like an unpretentious refusal to recognize boundaries. His multi-instrumental essays still enlighten, still bear close hearing today.

So now we encounter Alan still going strong, in a productively creative collaboration with Azure Carter and Luke Damrosch. Alan plays a battery of instruments that includes all manner of winds, Irish banjo, Alpine zither, viola, electric guitar, oud, pipa, erhu, etc. Joining him is Luke Damrosch on guzheng, madal, revrev supercollider software. Then there is Azure Carter and her highly contrastive, profound singsong song vocals.

The three gather together to create in the Sondheim vision a free pan-world music that through its multiple gestures and referents builds a new sort of sonic world. In that way everything Sondheim creates is another "New World Symphony" if you will.

This new effort is as good or even better than what has come before. It gels cohesively through the magic of deliberate disparity, like a mole sauce, a seemingly odd concatenation of chile and chocolate that thrives through its very melding of sensual opposites. Like that.

Highly recommended for you musical undergrounders.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

B.J. Jansen, Common Ground

For anyone who loves the baritone sax there is a recent album by the adept B.J. Jansen, his baritone and a most illustrious gathering of hard boppers. It is entitled Common Ground  (RoninJazz 20170501). The program consists of originals by Jansen and others, a cornucopia of contemporary bop tunes that open things up for the players.

With Jansen is Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone, Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Ralph Peterson on drums, Dezron Douglas on bass and Zaccai Curtis on piano. Together they make for a formidable whole that packs plenty of improvisational clout.

Jansen acquits himself well among such stellar company. He has a big sound and earthy soulfulness that falls into original territory, somewhere between Pepper Adams and Hamiet Bluiett would be a way to describe it.

And there is a joy in this music that comes out of the love of playing. The love of listening is our role in this action. I for one am glad to play my part as audience for this one.

Nicely done on all levels!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Toxic, Mat Walerian, Matt Shipp, William Parker, This is Beautiful Music Because We Are Beautiful People

This is the third meeting of reedist Mat Walerian with pianist Matthew Shipp on disk, at least as far as I am aware. It pairs the two with bass master William Parker as the trio Toxic. The album is entitled This is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (ESP-Disk 5011).

The opening "Lesson" makes it clear that the album focuses on sonic worlds that express through a spontaneous sound design. The flute-shakuhashi duo of Mat and William contrast against Matthew's inside-the-piano soundings for a mood that looks inward.

"Breakfast Club Day 1" evolves the sonics to include some cosmic William Parker bowing, Mat on alto sax and Matthew inside and then outside the piano. There are searchingly soulful gestures and Matthew then breaks out into some very personal expressions that look ahead to a pure state of musical being. He opens up to spontaneous compositional clarity outside of the usual free expressions and seeks his own RIGHT THEN ground. In reply is alto and bowed bass as a parallel creation.

It tells us what the artists seek and realize throughout. A musical world that follows the three as improvisers so sure of themselves that they can range far and wide into wherever the moment may bring them.

Freedom music is ideally and at its best  not a rote thing. The three give us an excellent example of how much their lifetime of open-form improvisation comes into play to create itself anew. You could give a separate hearing to concentrate on what each is doing in turn. It would be very worthwhile. Still it is the three in significant togetherness that makes each moment special.

If you like many right now don't know exactly where you are headed, you can learn and revive from this session. You do not  have to know in some formal sense to truly KNOW. That is only if your life stands available to you to draw from. And that life has its musical aspects, experiential aspects, in the end all of its presence. The best of freedom needs the totality of the experiences of the artists at hand. And then a true calling forth. That is what so excellently comes to your ears on This is Beautiful... It IS.

Strongly recommended as a model of what can be and is right now!

Friday, September 1, 2017

ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Kyle Bruckmann, Henry Kaiser, Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited

Revisiting classic avant-contemporary jazz works can be a challenging proposition. Somehow to retain something of the vibrational aura of the original yet also bring in a fresh improvisation slant on it all is far from easy. The ROVA Saxophone Quartet is no stranger to such efforts, having done a very worthy job in recreating Coltrane's Ascension some years ago.

And now the ROVA Saxophone Quartet returns with a movingly expressive look at Steve Lacy's 1975 Saxophone Special, appropriately titled Saxophone Special Revisited (Clean Feed 415). There of course is nothing else quite like the Steve Lacy of those classic days, with his brittle, dryly acerbic wit and quirky smarts.

The ROVA revisit maintains the same instrumentation as the original: sax quartet (Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin), synthesizer/electronics (Kyle Bruckmann), electric guitar (Henry Kaiser). The performers understand completely the tabula rasa nature of the original live recording and manage to convey it authoritatively while giving us a very creative take on the improvisational possibilities that bring the music alive for the world today.

On the recording we get the five original compositions plus Lacy's "Cliches" and "Sidelines" as bonus tracks. The extras are no throw-ins so much as an extension of the moods and modes of the music.

Any avant contemporary jazz listener will find this album quite enjoyable, stimulating, bracing, whether they have lived long with Lacy's original LP (as I have) or not. Those that know it will appreciate how ROVA and company manage to keep to the original mood yet move it ahead in creative ways. Spring forward, fall back. Listen and travel to future and past at the same time. Do it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mind Games, Ephemera Obscura

Anything we do not know is not necessarily some profound treasure, obviously. Yet we ignore the new and unknown at our own peril, for there are ever-worthy finds to be made when we cast a wide net. I cannot begin to convey to you the utter horror I can experience when putting utter crap on my player in search of the righteous stuff. Yet there is the elation too, when I come across something really good like the group Mind Games and their album Ephemera Obscura (Clean Feed 432).

This is a quartet of excellent players opening up into avant jazz tundra with compositional structure and improvisational freedom in equal amounts. The compositions are by various members of the group. They do a great job setting things up. Plus there are a number of collective jaunts.

Who are Mind Games? Angelika Niescier is on alto, a limber exponent of lucidity that helps a great deal in speeding things up and doing it with creative smarts. Denman Maroney plays piano. I've been hearing excellent things from him for a while and his slap-dash selectivity puts him in the upper echelon of post-Paul-Bley and post-Taylor newnesses. James Ilgenfritz mans the contrabass with pluck (pardon pun), frictive elegance and musically worthwhile determination. Andrew Drury is one of those drummer that can make a date right just by his percussive musicality, with an emphasis on the latter.

Put the four together on eight pieces and you have an ever-varying, playfully brilliant outcome. There never feels like there will be inevitability, like some free dates can do (and sometimes extremely well). Surprise is the norm, and each trip takes us to an interesting destination that we do not exactly expect.

After all has sounded I am left with a satisfaction that comes when in the presence of the best kinds of spontaneous creativity. If this has the acrid, angular tuneful tonal outness of a Dolphy album to some extent, it then also carries us forward to a more widely open-form looseness that is part of today.

Great job from a great quartet lineup!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jonah Parzen-Johnson, I Try to Remember Where I Come From

Who is Jonah Parzen-Johnson and why should we care? The short answer is that he is a musician-composer from Chicago. The "why we should care" part at the moment has to do with his album I Try to Remember Where I Come From (Clean Feed 430). It is a series of short compositions Parzen-Johnson created and then realized on baritone saxophone and synthesizer.

The electronic part is somewhere between a piano and an orchestra in depth and density. It is generally filled with motifs and harmonic content. The baritone part involves long lines with circular breathing and cascading, gritty jazz sensibilities.

What stands out in contemplating this music is its totality of expression and driving forwardness. It is contemporary in essence, jazz-laced and both open-spontaneous and prethought-composed-planned.

The two elements mingle together for a venture in musical substance that offers sonic presence and expressive thrust.

It is definitely worth checking out if you appreciate electric-acoustics synergies!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Roots Magic, Last Kind Words



Roots Magic bypasses all the BS out there and zeros in on the roots of magic, the magic of the roots and their capacity to renew us time and again. Roots Magic map it out and let their inner fires kindle on the album Last Kind Words (Clean Feed 437). Alberto Popolla on clarinet & bass clarinet, Errico de Fabritiise alto & baritone sax, Gianfranco Tedeschi on double bass, Fabrizio Sperra on drums and selected guests here and there tear it up.

The selection of songs-compositions are excellent, perfect vehicles to root it out. A number of Charlie Patton blues numbers are pivotal, around which are situated earthy classics by Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Marion Brown, Julius Hemphill, Hamiet Bluiett, Pee Wee Russell and a couple of originals. It is exactly the right springboard for an avantly soulful outing that gets the blood coursing through your body.

More could be said. It need not be said because this is a lodestone of hip heat!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker, Whisper, with Dada Villa-Lobos

The heartfelt saudade of Brazilian song means that often enough there is a level of romanticism (in both senses) to be encountered in the music. It is a beautiful sadness that does not wallow in sentiment so much as it engages in affective panoramas of melodic sublimity.

That is what we get quite nicely in Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker's Whisper (Enja 9617-2). Cristina has a lovely voice in the tender realm of an Astrud Gilberto, and an identity of her own. She is an excellent harp player as well, with a very appropriate presence throughout. She is seconded aptly on voice and guitar by Dado Villa-Lobos. The Modern Samba Quintet (trumpet, vibes, double bass, percussion and drums) brings us fine soloing and rhythm work.

The subtitle of this album gives us a hint as to what is in store."The Bossa-Nova Brandenburg Concerto" plays on the presence of the Brandenburger Symphoniker. It does NOT mean that you should expect some kind of Heitor Villa-Lobosian "Bachianas Brasileiras." Or at least, not exactly. The orchestra plays a key role in a lush sort of richly expressive romantic way. And I suppose if you look hard enough you can find traces of Villa-Lobos' presence in some of the orchestrations, which are nicely handled by several arrangers.

The several works that do not center directly on bossa classics have a harp and orchestra element that may recall Gil Evans and Villa-Lobos both. The rest of the music is full throated bossa with vocals by Cristina and Dado, jazz solos by Cristina (I would love to hear MORE of what she does in a harp jazz lining realm here) and the Quintet, and the richness of an orchestral carpeting.

That may not be for everybody, but it is most certainly for those who appreciate a first-rate harpist and vocalist doing Brazilian classics in a large ensemble setting. If you are in that category this is something you will appreciate! Recommended.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Rome

Rob Mazurek, cornetist, electronician, composer and bandleader, has in the last several decades made some monumentally important recordings in the realm of avant new jazz. I have been happy to cover many of them in these blogs, and I again put fingers to keyboard in order to give my take on his newest, a solo album entitled Rome (Clean Feed 435).

In this case it is Rob going it alone, playing in and contemplating the eternal city of Rome, what it means in musical terms and how it feels to be doing a spontaneous multi-instrument foray with a particular set of creative actions frozen in time via the recorded medium.

As always it is about Rob's distinctive cornet artistry and also about a great deal more. We get the piano/prepared piano/electronic immediacy that goes into making Rob's singular musical vision what it is. Only in the bare bones solo context we get it unvarnished, expressionist yet not as multiple-lined as his larger and sometimes very much larger bands.

This is a more introspective Mazurek, with boldly underscored cornet, yes, but also his new music piano inventions a very central part of it all, along with an acute sense of sound color that comes out most contrastingly in his electronic spontaneous "orchestrations."

It is an album that does not overpower so much as it opens up a wide space within which some rather profound musical events take place.

It is a slightly different, more intimate Mazurek at hand on this set. Yet with a few concentrated listenings you experience once again some breathtaking possibilities unfold, like pastels on paper as compared with the oversized multiply-worked "canvases" of some of his larger group projects.

Outstanding! Give this your ears, whether you are friends, Romans and/or countrymen!


Friday, August 11, 2017

The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra, Dreaming Big

I am hard pressed to imagine what the economics are of keeping a big band jazz outfit together these days. It is no doubt difficult enough, even daunting to keep a stable and working quartet going. And what about an 18-member unit? I cannot imagine. Nevertheless we have happy evidence that such an outfit can at least rehearse thoroughly and hit the studios to wax an excellent set. I speak of the Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra and their album Dreaming Big (Gold Fox Records GFR 1701).

It is a nicely tight outfit performing the unabashedly modern compositions of Brett Gold. You may hear in his work a distinct Gil Evansesque attention to well orchestrated sonics and well realized through compositions that maintain a high level of musicality throughout. There is a Gold originality that stands forward however, despite his lineal antecedents

There are good soloists to be heard generously, and a very solid ensemble sound that swings and finesses its way through the program seamlessly, and masters the compositional forms with a sure jazz modernity.

There is a consistency and continual fluency to this program. Any admirer of the modern jazz big band will find the New York Jazz Orchestra and Brett Gold's compositions and arrangements a fine thing indeed. Here is breakthrough big band music for today. May they continue indefinitely!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Art Fristoe Trio, DoubleDown

In the course of my sometimes meandering existence as music writer, musician, poetic inventor and liver of life, I sometimes realize how lucky I am. Somewhat broke, maybe, but never bent by the wheel of harsh necessity. Or at least not now after a long struggle to realize my own self-actualization. I stand before you proud to represent the best of the music of today. Not all of it, but a vital corner of it.

An example springs forward for our consideration right now. It is a double CD by pianist Art Fristoe and his trio. Double Down  (Merry Lane Records 2-CDs) is the album by name. It pits the very inventive pianistic and electric pianistic stylistics of Art Fristoe with the totally appropriate accompaniment of electric bassist Tim Ruiz and drummer Daleton Lee or Richard Cholakian. Ilya Janos joins the three on percussion for several cuts as well.

There is strength and interpretive, inventive poetry to be heard in the judicious and appealing mix of Fristoe originals and standards from a wide spectrum of possibilities old and newer. So we get "Alone Together" and "Caravan" but also "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Blackbird."

What is a constant is the rightness and creativity of the arrangements, with sometimes a jazz-rock tinge, other times a central swingingness,  the cohesiveness of the trio and Art Fristoe's piano strengths. He can solo in a neo-bop post-early Corea zone, do some very interesting block and semi-block interpretations and combine a vertical harmonic development and convincingness with a line and melody-interpretive zoning that marks him as very musical in the best jazz-sensible ways. And Art can sing nicely, too. Listen to "Blackbird!"

The music comes across as something accessible to many, yet a fully pleasurable outing for even the most discerning among us. Good going!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

LABtrio, Nature City

When you get complacent and think you have a full handle on something like adventuresome jazz, think again. Anytime I am convinced I have nailed it all down, a new batch of CDs arrive in the mailbox and...oh, there is more that is new!

LABtrio has that surprise element going. Their CD Nature City (outhere music 624) makes me sit up and take notice. The group at hand is a piano trio consisting of Lander Gyselinck on drums, Bram De Looze on piano and Rhodes, and Anneleen Boehme on double bass.

After ten years together, the liner notes inform us, they have been taking fresh stock of themselves. On Nature City they seek to delineate their identity more emphatically with a set of demanding compositions that require a very tight presentation but also a spontaneity and freedom.

Perhaps that is a tall order. They manage to succeed nevertheless with a music that may demand concentrated listening to appreciate properly, but then rewards with some exceptionally deep and advanced sounds.

This is jazz on the brink of a full avantness, yet occupying simultaneously a far corner of the contemporary mainstream. That positioning gives us the sort of advanced piano trio all-over threesomeness and takes it fully into a not-derivative place of its own.

I am rather thrilled with Nature City. It is a surface upon which three very talented players make of themselves a very welcome three-headed hydra that excels both in its compositional rigor and its improvisational spaciousness.

Kudos! Hear this one!




Friday, August 4, 2017

Xavier Camarasa & Jean-Marc Foussat, Dans les courbes

If my musical tastes often enough veer from the mainstream, I do not see it as my problem. It is a problem with the mainstream. Why is it that Modern Visual Art/Performance Art can regularly be covered by the mainstream art media, collected by the coterie of wealthy art patrons without complaint, installed in many of the world's most prestigious museums, yet music of a similar advancement is generally disdained, ignored or just plain reviled out there. I seek to redress that in my coverage of the new as well as the not-so-new. If it leaves me in poverty, at least I know I am doing a good turn for the art music scene today.

So today's offering in within that realm, music that is on the edge such that my housemates have their doubts about my sanity or alternately think there is some horrible cataclysm taking place in my living space. What we have is thoroughgoingly adventurous sound sculpting avant fare from pianist Xavier Camarasa and electronic music master Jean-Marc Foussat. The album is entitled Dans les courbes (FOU Records CD26).

What makes this program something superior and musical valuable is the freely articulated sonic understanding both artists bring to the table. The piano becomes almost an electronic vehicle; the Synthi AKS take on an almost pianistic demeanor. Of course that is only so in a sympathetic vibrancy sense. And yet there are much of the time contrasts that have a two-fold independence yet "go together" in non-cliche sorts of ways. The point is that there is an ever-shifting matrix of almost seamlessly cohesive noise and tone poetics that has a narrative quality and a continuity, yet a two-fold distinctiveness perhaps not as often found on the edges of free-new music as it might be.

Plus the sound melds are very musical as well as sonically alive with unexpected confluences.

I keep listening to this one. I keep coming away from it with an ever-increasing sense of satisfaction. That to me is a sure sign that this is avant sonancy of importance.

So not surprisingly I do suggest you dive into this music--provided you are unafraid of the untrammeled and genuinely NEW.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Itaru Oki, Nobuyoshi Ino, Choi Sun Bae, Kami Fusen

You never know (or I do not anyway) what is going to arrive in the mail for review from day-to-day. For example the other day my mailbox contained something by free avant jazz trumpeters Itaru Oki and Choi Sun Bae, and double bassist Nobuyoshi Ino, They gather together as an unusual threesome on the album Kami Fusen (No Business CD). It was a fortuitous meeting of the Korean Choi and the Japanese Oki and Ino. And it is captured in crisp audio clarity.

It is perhaps a somewhat unlikely pairing of two trumpets and bass, but even on first listen you hear the rightness of the three and their inspired interplay. It was recorded at a single live appearance in Japan that went forth without rehearsal. The compositional elements by Oki and Ino, and a standard or two are taken without a hitch and the improvisations travel to freely articulated yet centered and weighted territories.

Ino's bass playing is something to listen to closely. The two trumpeters offer dramatic contrasts in their sound and attack. All three give us something much more than three singulars, Rather three definite plurals come at us and demand our happy attention.

It is one of those one-off gatherings where a natural kinetic electricity is in the air. It is a fine listen, well worth your trouble if you want something open and brilliant.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Paul Rutherford, Sabu Toyozumi, The Conscience

The late Paul Rutherford (d. 2007) was one of new music-free jazz's most accomplished and daring trombonists. Many reading this do not need to be told. Drummer Sabu Toyozumi is an energetic, imaginative and fire-y exponent of free drumming in Japan. A series of annual get togethers in Tokoname of Sabu and select others led in 1999 to a duet meeting of Sabu and Paul Rutherford. The results were well recorded and now happily released as The Conscience (No Business CD).

The all-over sonic barrages of Sabu are exceptional here and set up a beautiful counterbalance to the Rutherford extroversions and trombone explosions.

It is an entirely free performance, and it is so with no flagging or coasting. Both are completely zoned-in and give us nuanced and inventive brilliance from first to last. It could be profitably heard as a kind of primer on the free jazz duet, on free trombone and drum excellence, on what a very productive duet exploration can be.

I am enjoying this one completely, repeatedly. All those interested or curious about freedom improvisations will do well to hear this one.

Very recommended.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Daniel Schlappi, Marc Copland, More Essentials

I have long appreciated pianist Marc Copland as a talented and expressively productive member of what one might call the Post-Bill-Evans School. Everything he plays seems right to me, most always.

A new album is out, a collaboration between Copland and bassist Daniel Schlappi. It is called More Essentials (Catwalk 150013-2). The title would seem to indicate that there was an earlier volume, but I will leave that to the discographers. My concern right now is of course this album.

The program consists of a number of reflective originals by Schlappi and/or Copland, most of which fall under the rubric "Essentials." All are stimulating and reflectively strong. But then there is a very well-chosen set of standards to be heard here, too.

They range from Miles' "Blue in Green," "All of You," Joni Mitchell's "Rainy Night House," Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," and others. The considerable prowess of Daniel Schlappi's bass combines with Marc Copland's pianistic rightness for a truly inspired sort of confluence.

This was one of those albums that I heard once, and immediately wanted to hear again. So, I put it on another time. With my helter skelter schedule I do not often do this. It is an indication of how the music reached me.

Two genuine jazz artistes inspiring each other to a high, a very high level? Yes. Listen to this, by all means!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Anne Vanschothorst, Beautiful World

 
I am generally not one to quibble about musical categories. Yet the internet has made categorical hair-splitting of tantamount importance. So when faced with a release that might fit in a number of blogs I do, I must mull it over somewhat carefully. If I post my review of harpist-composer Anne Vanschothorst's CD Beautiful World  (HSM) on this blogsite it is not because it would not equally belong on my Classical-Modern Music Review site. I place it here because I think perhaps the widest audience might be reached, an audience well versed in ambiance with a sort of quasi-ECM spaciousness.

To start at the top, I have been covering the beautiful harp artistry of Anne Vanschothorst for a while (do a search for her music in the search box of the classical blog). This new one has as a simple premiss some 11 compositions, all featuring Anne's meditative harp and one or more additional performers. So we get Anne with clarinetist Michael Moore, percussionist-drummer Arthur Bont, Thijs de Melker on organ, piano, or bass, Rebecca Star on vocals, and Jon Willem Troost on cello.

It is indeed a music of beauty, ambient not in the tonal fluffdom of typical "new age" music but in the concentric affectivity of Satie and beyond.

There is music anyone might appreciate--for example my spouse and one of the housemates both responded well as they passed through my listening space. And it also offers substantial results for those who demand more exacting content, which I of course do.

It is a moving slice of harp bliss and incisive compositional ambient moodiness. Perhaps it is Anne's best yet! In any case I do strongly recommend this one to you.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pol Belardi's Force, Riaz Khabirpour, Kaiser Quartett, Creation/Evolution

There is refreshing and ambitious artistry to be heard on Pol Belardi's Force and their album Creation/Evolution (Challenge Records Int. 71181).  The Force Quartet I gather is based in Germany. Pol Belardi's electric bass implacably puts the music on solid bedrock. The other quartet members play a central role in realizing Belardi's compositions and arrangements. David Fettmann on alto is energetic but not on the edge of energy playing. That happens to fit the unwinding musicality of line and harmony that Belardi favors. To call it post-Shorterian first occurred to me as I listened a final time while writing these lines. It is not wrong. There is a clarity and resonance you can feel in this music and though it does not strike me was being derivative of Shorter's writing, it does share with Shorter's compositions a kind of advanced melodic-harmonic matter-of-factness that is a good part of what makes this music in essence what it is. But there is more.

Back to the quartet. Jerone Klein on piano has a full musicality and backbones the music while nicely embellishing improvisatorily as called upon. And Neils Engel drums creatively and brings out the compositional and propulsive needs well.

For about half the pieces the quartet is joined by guitarist Riaz Khabirpour and he adds considerable musical texture and finesse. The Kaiser String Quartett also adds fullness and a distinctive compositional complexity and richness to the music on half the program. Pol manages to integrate both into the artistic whole in ways that feel organic and natural.

The sum of the musical results is very motivated by the compositions and how they lay out over time. There is an almost-classical logic to the unfolding of each piece, and a great deal of musical riches to explore and appreciate. It is not quite ECM-ish, not exactly neo-Third Stream, not exactly anything but Belardian. I do sometimes hear an affinity with that old 2LP Keith Jarrett album on Columbia years ago, especially in the string and guitar elements. And it turns out that is a very good thing, a very fulsomely musical thing, and expressive and slightly lyrical thing.
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I would think anyone who likes the idea of a jazz composer-centric music will launch into the music positively. I do recommend it as a substantial offering, perhaps more modern contemporary than avant garde, but such distinctions are not important if the music is worthy. It is! Listen.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day Quartet, On Parade

For those who might have missed Harris Eisenstadt's music, and for those that already know, his recent Canada Day Quartet album On Parade (Clean Feed 413) continues the adventurous journey through compositional-improvisational singularity.

The band is chemically-collectively and individually very well suited as a vehicle to take Harris's compositional structures and flesh them out with a special unity-in-disparity. Of course Harris is on drums with his very creative intelligence. He is a drummer's drummer. You listen to his very varied and subtle yet dynamic approach and you hear so much. Nate Wooley is one of the top tier modern-avant trumpeters out there and his work on this album bears out his deserved high status. He's a dynamo. Matt Bauder is one of my favorite tenors these days because he always comes at you with a strong, varied tone and great ideas. Then Pascal Niggenkemper on bass handles the compositional realizations and improvises with equal power. He is a third horn as much as a rhythm mate of always-in-there talent.

You hear the four-way interplay and improvisations with a smile because there simply are no cliches to be heard! And at the same time the compositions are substantial and weighty in ways that point to Eisenstadt's special approach. There are multi-lines and fresh modernisms always.

So once again I must strongly recommend the new one to you. Modern avant jazz has a seminal force in Harris and the Canada Day Quartet. Do not miss this!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2, Tarvos, with Bobby Kapp




So today I present to you my thoughts on the second volume of the ambitious and endlessly absorbing series, The Art of Perelman-Shipp. Volume 2, Tarvos (Leo LR 795). On it we are treated to the trio of Ivo Perelman, tenor sax, Matt Shipp, piano, and one of the more unsung masters of avant jazz drumming, Bobby Kapp.

Kapp has a supreme feel for getting his drums to SOUND, ringingly and musically, and then how to construct a prose of drum eloquence that is perfect for this threesome.

As the other volumes in the series, it is open freedom throughout that is the order of the day.

Matt sounds his usual excellently appropriate self. He is sometimes less overtly soloistic than he usually is, but what he plays is perfect as a pianistic setup for the proceedings and if you listen concentratedly to what he is doing, you hear how what he is doing goes a long way in establishing what is happening. And then there is some very weighty space eventually where he rhapsodizes freely as only he can!

This volume has some exceptional Ivo Perelman tenor. He wills himself into a sort of twilight world where the immediate mingles with a sort of scumbling presence of the past in jazz sax. I hear, almost hallucinate with the resonance of players like Johnny Hodges, Pete Brown, Ben Webster, there yet as a musical apparition, a ghostly wisp of allusions to what no longer exists except in Ivo's masterful channeling of their long silent echoes.

And so the entire program glows with an aura that is palpable yet intangible. It is a testament to the masterful brilliance of the three frozen in a series of brilliant moments.

Perhaps you should start here with the set! It is a prime example of very rooted and eloquent new free jazz.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rodrigo Amado, Goncalo Almeida, Marco Franco, The Attic

I must say that the work of tenor sax man Rodrigo Amado has over the recent years never failed to leave an excellent impression on me. He is back with a trio of Goncalo Almeida on bass and Marco Franco on drums for the recent CD The Attic (NoBusiness NBCD 98).

It is pure modern avant free jazz in a very open setting. Almeida's double bass grounds everything whether arco or pizzicato; Marco Franco drums his way into an open field with consistent drive and imagination.

And all that sets up nearly infinite possibilities that Rodrigo takes advantage of with some very inspired tenor flights. As one expects, he has a ravishing tone and never flags in his formidable knack to weave endlessly fascinating, soulful and earth stirring lines.

It is an astonishingly great set, in my view. Grab it!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Jared Sims, Change of Address

A new baritone man has arrived. His name is Jared Sims and his latest album is Change of Address (Ropeadope). This modern-day hard bop from the agile baritonist has the torque of a hard hitting organ combo putting it all together nicely behind him.

Jared is joined by Steve Fell on electric guitar, Nina Ott on organ, Chris Lopes on bass and Jared Seabrook on drums. They lock in with the solid grooves that form the bedrock over which everything happens.

And Jared's baritone pushes it all ahead with a stock of good ideas in a post-Pepper-Adams and beyond mode. He has the sound and the good note choice of a formidable baritone exponent.

Seven game originals grace the set and allow Jared to reach maximal expression levels. Steve and Nina spell him with some worthy solos.

In all, good times and good jazz are to be had on Change of Address. Sims comes through and you will be grinning and tapping your foot to this I will safely bet.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Francois Carrier, Michel Lambert, Rafal Mazur, Oneness

OK, there's is another good one out by alto titan Francois Carrier. It is called Oneness (FMR CD444). It is a live date recorded in Krakow, Poland in 2015. Francois is joined by long-time collaborator Michel Lambert on drums and Rafal Mazur on acoustic bass guitar. Rafal gives the music more open spaces than a trio with piano would have, and so there is that much more potential for the three to proceed unhindered by overt harmonies and such.

Now that does not mean that this trio is necessarily better than some of the ones before. You can type Francois' name in the search box above to read my positive thoughts on many of the earlier albums.

All those things aside, the music is strongly motored by the inspiration and suchness of the instrumentation.

Francois is beautifully limber and bursting at the seams with great lining ideas. The man is a fountainhead of energy and form, as much on this one as anywhere. He is one of those who is to the alto in a way what Ali was to boxing. There is continual oblique and unpredictable movement, and the series of "stings" that hit home.

Rafal gives the music continual countermelody, never quite doing what you expect. It gives the music a bottom-center that allows Francois and Michel lots of latitude.

And Michel does what he always seems to do so well--give the asymmetrical  periodicity that expands greatly what diffuse time possibilities are available and actualized.

In sum this is world-class free jazz. You probably owe it to yourself to check it out closely. It is a real kicker!


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume One, Titan, Ivo Perelman, Matt Shipp, William Parker

When a stellar twosome simultaneously release an ambitious set of seven  freely collaborative explorations, The Art of Perelman-Shipp, one would do well to take notice. They have been in tandem more than a few times before, with over 30 recordings released in the past several decades. The new set is both a summing up and a fresh trail blazing. I start today with Volume 1, Titan (Leo 794). I plan to cover all seven on these pages. In the widest sense, they remake in musical terms the astronomical reemergence of Saturn in our solar neighborhood.

The first volume features Ivo Perelman on tenor sax, Matt Shipp on piano, and William Parker on bass. This makes perfect sense, in that Parker is a present-day TITAN of free music (as he has been for many decades), and especially associated with Matt as fellow-members of David Ware's pathbreaking quartet and later as a cornerstone of some of Matt's best trios.

The Volume One program is broken into six segments. All are freely invented and very much a living, flowing interlocking of the highest sort. Some of the best moments are relaxed, concentrated effusions of three-fold invention. Other sections gradually build energy and torque. The entire CD finds all in peak form and intent on scaling the higher climbs of cosmic stratospherics.

Ivo now and then reaches back for some vibrato-laced allusions to older jazz modes. Matt and William reference and channel the rich heritage of the music as well, all made present as they then further empty the cauldrons of fire and fluidity.

It is one of those dates where everyone clicks together and inspires each the other to surpass where they plateau  momentarily now and again, then take it a step upwards.

It is an auspicious beginning to the set and fully advanced as an excellent offering that stands on its own regardless of the promise of the six volumes to come. More on those soon. Meanwhile by all means hear this first.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Vadam Neselovskyi Trio, Get Up and Go

I must say that the recent CD by Vadim Neselovskyi and his trio, Get Up and Go (jazz family-blujazz BJ3449), is getting my attention in the best ways. Think of Bad Plus for compositions-arrangements on a high level, but then ratchet it up a couple of notches. The intricate compositions of Neselovskyi carry the day, very much so. But they work because the trio (with the fine vocals of Sara Sherpa on a couple of cuts) play the living daylights out of them. They have worked hard no doubt to get themselves into a razor-sharp executionary mode. The results are plaintive in moving ways at times, but then exciting, dynamic, forcefully resilient at other times.

This is virtuoso modern jazz, made possible by the considerable abilities of Vadim, plus Ronen Itzik on drums, Dan Loomis on acoustic bass. They rollick and raise the veritable roof so that you cannot ignore or background what is going on, try as you might (though I surrendered early on to the spell of this one). Neselovskyi has some beautiful improvisational moments throughout, which only add to the proceedings.

I do find myself enthralled with this one. It is something readily understood as contemporary piano trio modernism, but then an original gesture in its own right.

Oh, yes!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Enter Humcrush

Oh, yes! The very first seconds of the music on Enter Humcrush (ShhPuma 030CD) let you know that this duo means business! I don't remember having heard either before, but no matter, because this is a music that both erases the path in front of it and redraws new lines to replace that which has disappeared.

Stale Storlokken appears on Fender Rhodes, synth and electronics; Thomas Stronen is on drums and electronics.

What you get is a very electric-electronic set of hard avant rock-jazz freedom, a sort of evolved psychedelia the way things are in the constant process of panning out today.

Stronen steps forward with the busy rock-funk-jazz depth that you might (and rightly so) trace back to Jack DeJohnette on Miles' "Live at Fillmore." It is a further evolution of what playing time can mean when it is dealt out in strait-eighth rock measure, only smearing bar lines and extending the variations endlessly as bop drummers like Klook learned to do with swing.

And Stale has much to say, freely and bent with fuzzi-cosmic grit or at times cleanly coming forth in sound yet retaining an outside styling both inventive and soulful.

This is one of those albums that asserts and realizes much that heretofore was somewhat latent in avant-free jazz-rock. And it kicks it! Oh, it does!

This is music to check out for sure! Happily recommended.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Staub Quartet, House Full of Colors

Put together a sort of "string quartet" of Portuguese free jazz/new improvised music stars Miguel Mira on cello, Carlos "Zingaro" on violin, Hernani Faustino on bass and Marcelo dos Reis on acoustic and prepared guitar, and you get the Staub Quartet. Their debut CD House Full of Colors (JACC Records 33) is so much more than a chance meeting that you sit up and take notice from the first notes onward.

Those who know these four and their freely inventive prowess should not be surprised. Though I am not in the position to keep score, they have all played together in various combinations and surely belong together. There is nothing casual about these improvisers--everything I've heard of them has a huge sense of purpose and an advanced open form seriousness that often enough verges on the sublime. So I naturally had lots of expectations when I put this CD on my player.

To say I was not disappointed is to say that all the four can be inventively is very much present here. The whole is the greater for the Staub Quartet formation. Each plays a role and as you listen to the six segments you revel in how the colors and textures of the instruments in the hands of these masters come to create totalities that are consistently near breathtaking and sometimes well beyond that.

There often enough is a kind of gestural complementarity between bass and cello, for reasons that have to do with their potential as rhythm section choices in more conventional jazz, but then both Mira and Faustino can of course function as horns and convincingly so. Or of course both are supreme colorists and find a place when there are two-, three-, or four-way blends of that kind of thing. Make no mistake however, this music channels historic jazz only in the most convoluted and indirect ways. There is a kind of "soul" to it all, but a different kind. And the lining is not naked linearity but collectively simultaneous. So does it sound like Armstrong and Oliver? Well, no, not really! So do not expect that. Do expect the outer fringes of avant jazz and new music to have some relation to what you hear.

Zingaro is a supreme solo line-weaver on violin but he can and does also blend his special ways into the whole. Marcelo transforms his guitar sound (whether prepared or otherwise) into the totality so much so that you have to remind yourself that the fourth line is a guitar line. Sometimes he becomes such a shape-changer that he transcends his instrument to become a pure aural force in the complex mix. Listen once through just for him and you'll be surprised and enlightened as to what he comes up with.

All four of course form the matrix that makes all the difference on this album. Nobody is the "star;" the various organic growths they nurture in the six segments have a natural yet uncannily "forward" quality that you must hear with focused intent, to expose yourself repeatedly and gradually to get the full appreciation this album demands and deserves.

It is one of the best outings of all four and it is one of the best "fours" in avant music outings today.

You want to know what is new and important ion free improv? This is one for sure! Excellent!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Michael Pedicin, As it Should Be, Ballads 2

We have come some distance from the time in jazz where the ballad was a fixture (think for example early Miles, Coleman Hawkins) of a typical set by the most advanced of musicians. An entire album of ballads is a rare thing these days, and you certainly do not expect a ballad in a typical set by today's stalwarts. I do not, anyway.

So to me a new release of just ballads is unusual, more so than perhaps it used to be. Tenor-soprano Michael Pedicin is one of the exceptions, as he shows with a second volume of ballads: As it Should Be, Ballads 2 (Groundblue Records).

The album is nicely put together, with eight worthwhile compositions by Johnny Valentino (the guitarist here as well), plus "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and Coltrane's "Crescent". Pedicin is out front with some very fine effusions on tenor and soprano. He is well seconded by Valentino on guitar and Frank Strauss on piano and Rhodes. The rhythm team has a subtle but swinging role. Mike Boone on bass, Justin Faulkner on drums and the well-known  Alex Acuna on percussion distinguish themselves with a proper backdrop for the pellucid and stirring solos.

It is one of those CDs that can be ear candy for the uninitiated yet have full artistic presence for the cultivated jazz listener.

Give this a spin!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Zack Clarke, Random Acts of Order

More interesting free-avant improvisation-jazz by artists I am not very familiar with? I am happy to say yes. Today it is a matter of one Zack Clarke, pianist, electronician, leader of a very capable trio on the album Random Acts of Order (Clean Feed 409).

This is a free trio with a decided difference. Henry Fraser is the double bassist, Dre Hocevar the drummer, and they both contribute much to the outcome. But it is Clarke's pianism that especially wins me over. He has a well developed harmonic sense and a great touch, yet he fits in not much at all with the Paul Bley vs Keith Jarrett-Bill Evans vs Cecil Taylor schools. Actually if I think about it he may have some affinity with early Burton Greene, but not in any obvious way. And there is a jagged quality that may channel Bley but only in the most whispie sense.

He covers spooky ambiance and topsy-turvey free rolling post-swing. And he does it in his very own way. It is an album that hangs together very well.

Zack and trio bring to us another way to slice the avant pie. It is a pleasure to hear and experience this. Something new!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Leap of Faith Orchestra, Supernovae

Leap of Faith Orchestra is New England sax-jazz composer-bandleader PEK's large ensemble. It returns with an ambitious new album, Supernovae (Evil Clown 9125). For this recording the band numbers some 21 musicians conversant with the vocabulary and thrust of free jazz today.

Supernovae is a live, nearly 80-minute sonic extravaganza that the group let loose with at the Somerville Armory last year. There are endless combinations and permutations of the vast instrumental capabilities and timbral combinations of which the ensemble is capable. Some sort of compositional-conductional schema is clearly at work throughout.

However PEK and his ensemble regulated their sound and silences, their assertions and combinatory presences, there results torrents and trickles, small activated cells and large tutti outbursts fascinating and moving to hear. All 21 players use the freedom available to them wisely.

The finished product has the excitement of the best free large ensembles of Silva, Rivers, Taylor and  JCOA. It is excellent fare for the dedicated avant jazz aficionado.

It that describes you, then this is doubtless for you! It is a very worthwhile listen. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Peter Erskine Trio, John Taylor, Palle Danielsson, As It Was, 4-CD Retrospective

In the maddening jumble of my life as it happens to be right now, I've had a release ready for review for several months. Why I am only getting to it now has nothing to do with the music and its quality. It has more to do with an unceasing serendipity that has at times sidetracked my ordered intentions.

So we plunge in, or rather I do. You are the readers. It is up to me to speak. I hope of course you will read. The Peter Erskine Trio with John Taylor on piano and Palle Danielsson on bass had four albums come out on ECM, 1992-1997: "You Never Know," "As It Is," "Time Being," and "Juni."  In the interim a good deal of time and change has effected us and our world. John Taylor is no more. We have been flung into the future willy nilly and it is not what we expected. Meanwhile the ECM folks have seen fit to re-release all four albums as a box set retrospective entitled As It Was (ECM 2490-93).

And so the music emerges once again for us to reconsider. I will now admit to you that the period of 1992 through 1997 was alternatively one of poverty and then incredibly dense activity for me. I had almost no time to follow what was coming out, and so I missed all four of these albums.

The result is that this retrospective is to me something totally new. In the end it should make no difference. What is worth hearing or rehearing now is a matter of worth TO US who still stand (or sit) in the ever-passing world of music available for the hearing. Either the music speaks to us right now or does not.

As It Was most certainly DOES speak to me at this waystation of my life. I have come to appreciate the late John Taylor as a pianist of world-class stature on the contemporary jazz scene. If I came to him via several of his own albums instead of this trio, it does not matter. Similarly of course both Palle Danielssohn and Peter Erskine I have long appreciated for their superb artistry.

These four albums today sound as fresh and current as anything coming out on ECM now. Taylor provided most of the compositions, Danielsson others and a few covers are a part of the set.

What endures and catches our ears is the enormously subtle interplay of the three. They interact in full complementary synch, with a beautifully spacious balladic sprawl or a sophisticated swinging pulse.

And as you listen you feel that the ECM piano trio legacy that has been so much a part of the label's contemporary presence is notably represented by these sides. There is harmonic lush expansion, there is a compositional rootedness and an introspective-turned-sometimes-outward feel that makes all this music as capacious (roomy) as it is understated and profound.

Any contemporary jazz piano trio adept will find in this set much to explore and grow into. It is not a loud music, but it is originally expressive and consistently so. Listen if you can!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sxip Shirey, A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees

The smack-down of review CDs in our now very tiny space has called for my continual attention, as the hustle and bustle and multi-purposes of the space usage threaten at all times to create impossible pile jumbles. So far, so good, but it can be tough. For example somehow today's CD, Sxip Shirey's A Bottle of Whiskey and A Handful of Bees (VIA 11).  I found it at the bottom of a box that was supposed to contain new music classical. When I unearthed it again I remembered I had liked it so I gave it the requisite final listens. After those I realized that here was something special, certainly nothing to do with classical, but instead an intriguing mix of distinctive alt rock sensibilities along with a bluesiness-rootsiness and at times a hip-hoppish veneer. None of those aspects come through conventionally. That is all the more reason this one is so different and, I must say, cool.

Xavier and Sxip do the vocals and both are excellent. There are instrumentals, too. All of it has a brilliant arranger's touch and a very hip memorability. Lyrics are something to ponder but nothing I would want to categorize on this page. Some seem well beyond the range of pop radio!

The combinations of electro-synths and conventional or unconventional instruments are uncannily out of the ordinary. And the more I hear it, the more distinctively compelling the music seems.

Sxip is not an ordinary commercial artist. The commerciality is twisted and turned so that people may dig it but it speaks originally and satisfyingly on its own terms. Is Sxip the new Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks? In a way but not in a way you'd expect. Does that get your attention? Well this disk got mine!

A real ear-opener!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Kaja Draksler Octet, Gledalec

Composer-pianist Kaja Draksler and her Octet give us a decidedly different musical experience on the two-CD set Gledalec (Clean Feed 417). The group features two vocalists, two reeds (including Ab Baars), violin-viola, double bass, drums and Kaja on piano.

To describe the music is not easy. There are early music influences, folk strains, a contemporary new music element and an avant jazz aura about it. There are very gentle moments that you do not often find in this sort of music, and a thoughtful sort of expression. And there is fire!

There is no one who quite sounds like this. If you have patience and take care to give it a close listen, Glendalec will open up some very eventful and unique musical worlds within which you can dwell at length. I looked to her discography on her site and there is much more. Here is a good place to start. Then if you are like me you may want to explore what else she has been doing. Oh, look her up on my search box above for another one I reviewed and liked.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Earth Tongues, Ohio


The trio Earth Tongues and their 2-CD improvisation Ohio (neither/nor n/n 006) is one of those long building free-new music essays in sound that takes its time unfolding and rewards the patient listener with a finely honed, ever-blossoming panorama

You might not know what to expect, or I did not at least, by looking at the personnel and instrumentation. The jacket tells us that the trio is made up of Joe Moffett on trumpet and cassette player, Dan Peck on tuba and cassette player and Carlo Costa on percussion. What we get is a beginning with little sounds, microscopic fragilities, quietude of a carefully, creatively mapped out spontaneity.

Only in time does the music become ever more present, in ways that remind one of some of the pioneering new music improv groups (MEV, AMM, etc), only updated and personalized for the now we live in.

All makes an artistic sense if you just let it be. The unfolding is the all. And with that we can actualize our listening self to become something other. Such is the best sort of avantdom.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Rob Mazurek, Chants and Corners

The music of Rob Mazurek in the past decade has been remarkable. His use of electronics in a thoroughly exciting free jazz medium, his cornet, his role as bandleader, all stands out in my mind as high points in the later period of avant expression.

And now we have a further example of his, another clear sign that the momentum of his most creative period to date is in no way at an ebb. The new one is entitled Chants and Corners (Clean Feed 416). It incorporates deftly electronics manned by Mazurek, Guilherme Granado and Thomas Rohrer. Mazurek is also on cornet and on piano for one track, Granado is also on keys, Rohrer on rabeca, flutes and soprano. Then there is Mauricio Takara on drums plus Philip Somervell on piano and prepared piano. The totality of the ensemble is as primary as the quality of the improvisations. It is a joyous noise we hear.

To parse each part in a description is perhaps to miss the point? On the other hand one cannot help but appreciate Rob's stunning cornet work. Everybody does the right thing, though. Giulherme's and Philip's keys-piano work is rompingly appropriate. Mauricio drums up a froth. And Thomas adds significantly on reeds. But it is all this within an electronic wash that puts things on a collectively higher plane.

It is nothing less than what one would expect from Mazurek at this stage. But then it is also more, a further development, a remarkable fluency of free musical expression taken another step forward.

Hear, absolutely!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Allen Lowe, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out DownEast

Why it has taken a while for me fully to appreciate the music of Allen Lowe is a bit of a puzzle, now that I am totally on his wavelength. Maybe because he is so prolific--the "box" set I reviewed a while back had an awful lot of music to digest and I'll admit I wrote up my review before I had spent enough time with the music to assimilate it fully. I ended up going back to it and the additional spins made it all come together for me.

So, thankfully, there is more coming out. There is another set I'll be getting to but first a single disk release, In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell with an Ocean View: Down and Out Downeast (Constant Sorrow 999). I can identify with the title because I am living it, too. The world is very beautiful but nowadays very hellacious, as anyone reading this might know.

The album begins as is Allen's way with an excellent cast, Allen of course with his inimitable alto and then Nels Cline on guitar, Ray Suhy on guitar, Matthew Shipp on piano, Kevin Ray on bass, Larry Feldman on violin and mandolin, and Carolyn Castellano on drums. The "big names" give us key contributions, but then again so do the "smaller names." Allen however is the guiding force on alto that makes it all come together.

The originals are open, mostly changes-based gems that show Allen has absorbed fully the roots of avant jazz (whatever those are in their great plentitude). He has worked his way through the myriad avenues and byways, doubtless a long process that has led him to his own original path. That end discovery of his musical self after such an extensive exposure to what has been is of course not at all the norm. Not many have so fully slogged through it all as he has. It is key to his music, that working through and beyond.

Each piece is memorable in form and melodic-harmonic movement. They open the way to improvisations of stature.

This is a great place to start if you do not know Allen's music, and you should. It is an additional and very rewarding temporary resting point if you already know him. Either way the music is vital, jazz of the most developed sort,  reaching some of the highest planes of attainment on the scene today.

Can you tell I recommend this unreservedly? I do.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jason Anick & Jason Yeager, United

In today's realms of "serious" music, including the art of jazz, nothing is absolutely given. That means that anything is possible, even if some pathways are not exactly welcomed by a large segment of the music listening public. We who make and/or cover such musical roads may need to learn that an isolation from the mainstream of musical and verbal discourse becomes more and more a reality, a condition that one must either accept as a fact of life or take an unappealing turn to the popular.

Neither this writer nor the music he covers today is about to "sell out." Yet in fact the music has the ability to garner a wide appeal if things were different out there. Maybe it will after all.

I speak of the collaborative teaming of  violinist Jason Anick and pianist Jason Yeager on the album United (Inner Circle 067CD). It consists of some evolved originals by Anick and Yeager, some selected compositions by Zbigniew Seifert, plus Harrison's "Something" and Miles' "All Blue."

There is a slight classical element to be heard in the originals but a pronounced contemporary jazz center that shows off the very focused abilities of Anick and Yeager, a rhythm team (alternating, two different ones) and some guest appearances by trumpet and saxophones.

The spotlight is squarely on the two in fascinating interplay. If the material reminds of Burton or Corea in classic phases, perhaps that has something to do with the Berklee nexus of the players? I does not matter. What counts is the beautiful musicianship of the team and how they extend and interpret the compositions in a total gestalt of intertwining poetics.

Anick is a hell of a violinist and Yeager a wonderfully alive pianist.

It's all good.